Stormy Weather

Have you noticed how quickly airports shut down at the first splash of a rain drop that hits the tarmac? Twice now I’ve been left waiting at the gate for hours while the weather clears up. Another time I was kept waiting because the airport had too much traffic in the air due to bad weather and re-routed flights that were scheduled to arrive.

What’s with this? I’ve been flying all my life. I’m used to flying in all kinds of weather. Once, I was on board a plane in Argentina in torrential rain. I mean sheets. With lightning and thunder to go with it. We shoved off from the gate and headed toward the take-off area. The plane in front of us got clearance for take-off. It splashed through the rain, leaving a wake of water behind, and climbed into the storm clouds and vanished. Our captain, watching this no doubt from the cockpit, turned and inched our plane to a parking spot. “My wife told me not to play the hero, so we’re waiting for this storm to move on,” he said. In a way, I was relieved. I liked this guy’s survival instincts.

On the other hand, I’ve been on planes when an engine blew out just before landing in Mexico City. I pointed it out to the flight attendant and she said, “Oh that’s nothing, not to worry.” Meanwhile black fumes were spewing out and I could see flames licking the sides of the engine. Either she was blind, in denial or I was hallucinating. Fortunately we were on approach and came to a screeching halt the minute we touched down. Firefighters surrounded the engine with their extinguishers. I found the flight attendant who looked out the window with me. “I know it was your job to calm me down, but don’t take me for an amateur. I know a crisis when I see one. I’m a mother.”

On another flight, the turbulence was so horrible I wanted to die. It was worse than a roller-coaster ride because we were so far up in the air and I couldn’t see the ground. That is always a bad sign in my mind. We had plenty of distance to fall like a rock, but I wanted to sail, not fall. The wings shuddered, the cabin creaked and moaned, the passengers held their collective breaths, and the flight attendants were harnessed into their jump seats looking terrified. We flew through that rough patch and climbed to a higher altitude where we were greeted by angels singing and rays of sunshine.

Even with the newer planes, that are sleeker and more fuel efficient, these episodes happen. Weather trumps everything, every time, leaving all our systems in the lurch.

Calvin says, “That’s why I hate flying as much as going to the vet. Grip the ground is my motto.”

Never Getting Home

It took me two hours to get home on the train last night.I know for some this is normal, but it wasn’t for me.

When I came down the escalator the platform was a sea of people, tightly knit together in a mass of black and grey, standing in one direction away from the platform I usually wait on. Of course there were no announcements to explain this sight. Everyone was relatively subdued and waiting patiently. There must have been five hundred people there, everyone on their smart phones checking for updates. Eventually a calming female voice made an announcement. There was a serious medical emergency at the station before ours and they had closed down the track. Meanwhile they were running all trains, in and out, on one single track. That was even more alarming to me. How could they do that without major smash-ups?

There was no air to breathe below ground. This was also a good indication of how unprepared the city was for an emergency. No police presence either. Another announcement was made. This one specifying that there were too many people here and train personnel were closing the doors at street level for a while. 

I considered my options. To stay or find a coffee shop to wait in, but then I realized I’d be trading one line for another. I decided to stay. Trains trickled in for the next hour, but none were mine. The mass of humanity thinned out a bit bringing some relief. At this point I was strategizing which trains to take and backtrack to get home, but it was too complicated. I would have ended up in Alaska. I stayed put.

Eventually, an hour and fifteen minutes later, another announcement was made telling us the serious medical emergency had been handled and trains were resuming on both tracks again.

While we were never told what that emergency was, we were grateful to get on our respective trains heading in the right direction even if we were packed in like cattle.

Calvin says, “So glad I wasn’t with you. I would have rolled on the ground and howled my complaints.”

A Little Rain Will Do It

Have you noticed how quickly airports shut down at the first sign of rain that splashes the tarmac? Twice now I’ve been left waiting at the gate for hours for the weather to clear up. Another time the arrival airport had too many planes in the air and couldn’t handle all that traffic at the same time. All because it was raining. Really? Where have all the cowboys gone who could ride the storm like a bronco? I guess they’re afraid of a lawsuit if they skid off the runway.

Just recently I was scheduled into O’Hare from San Francisco. As soon as we reached Chicago airspace we began to do the loopy loops. I knew instantly we weren’t going to land. This went on for an hour. O’Hare had shut down because of stormy weather. And then we got re-routed to Grand Rapids. We landed and parked on the tarmac. For four hours. Other planes began to arrive. Pretty soon the small airport looked like a boneyard. It reminded me of the musical, Come From Away where 38 planes and 6,700 passengers were redirected to Gander, Newfoundland during 9/11. Except we didn’t have any catchy tunes to accompany us or trays of sandwiches and hot coffee greeting us. Eventually the airport gave us a gate, we disembarked, raced to the bathroom, bought some snacks, re-fueled and then boarded again. We finally got permission to fly into O’Hare. By then my connecting flight to Warsaw was long gone, and I was left to navigate the airport maze in search of another flight.

I’ve been flying all my life. I’m used to flying in all kinds of weather. Once, I was on board a plane in Argentina in torrential rain. I mean sheets. With lightning and thunder for special effects. We shoved off from the gate and headed toward the runway. The plane in front of us got clearance to leave. It tore through the rain like a torpedo, leaving a wake of water behind, climbed into the storm clouds and vanished. Our captain, watching this no doubt from the cockpit, had second thoughts because he turned and inched our plane to a parking spot. “My wife told me not to play the hero, so we’re waiting for this storm to move on,” he told us. I immediately liked his wife. I liked him even more for heeding her advice. On the other hand, I’ve been on planes when an engine blew out just before landing in Mexico City. On another one, the turbulence was so frightening I wanted to die. My seat-mate, a pilot said, “Don’t be afraid. Planes are built for this.” That didn’t help my stomach flipping over, making me grab the vomit bag.

Calvin says,”That’s why my preferred way to travel is four paws on the ground and my GPS nose.” 

Collapse of the Berlin Wall

Yesterday was a first for me. I was on the subway and nearing my stop. I got up from my seat a minute ahead, something I do all the time, walked to the door, and landed flat on my back. The ground gave way under me. More correctly, I gave way. My knees buckled and I went down. It happened so fast it took a few seconds to realize I was staring up at the ceiling. I must say I collapsed gracefully, as if I had practiced this maneuver all my life, like a ballerina on point. In actuality I came down like a ton of bricks.

Fortunately there weren’t many people on board so I had the floor to myself. And it was reasonably clean. The few passengers that saw me go down didn’t move, they just watched me collapse. IMG_4443

One man, who sat near the door, helped me get up, sort of. He helped me sit up and then I got to my feet on my own. I didn’t have any broken bones, head concussions or scrapes. I didn’t look wounded. I did not want to be one of those riders who got sick on the train and the whole subway system jams up while the paramedics and the police with their German Shepherds show up. I just got off at my stop and kept walking.

I made it to the office and gulped down my first cup of coffee.

A few hours later my lower back began complaining. That’s all, just a whine of self-pity in a minor key. I could live with that.

Calvin says, “You know, taking me for walks has limbered you up, otherwise you would have folded like a deck chair and stayed there.”beagle

Security Details

I was overweight. Me and my luggage. The agent behind the airline counter said I should remove something otherwise it would cost me $200 in fees. “Do you do liposuction?” He had no sense of humor. I lugged the bag over to a scale and hoisted it on with all my might. I was only 7 pounds over the permissible 50. “Cut me some slack,” I thought with my heart pounding. I was facing a 14-hour flight. What was a measly 7 pounds? I looked over at him. He pointed to a sign that said, “50 lb. limit.” I pulled out my make-up bag. That did the trick. But now my purse was so heavy it threatened to pull my shoulder out of its socket.

Even with TSA pre-check and an escort from CLEAR, my purse was pulled off the conveyor belt for inspection. No kidding. It overflowed. The agents were looking for a sharp object. They decided it was the camera lens I was carrying for a friend. I knew it was my nail file and dagger attitude. IMG_3973

When I got to the gate, or tried to, there was another security check with pat downs, checking of bags and screening for chemicals on my clothes. I went through that twice. I ran upstairs to buy another purse to divide my overload in two places. Both times I had to go through security. That’s the price you pay to fly to Israel.

It made me ask why we don’t do this in all our airports. Why only on flights to Israel? It’s because Israel demands it. So why don’t we? We’re too lenient and too trusting. TSA isn’t going to catch every bad guy in the first run through. We need two screenings, especially one just before boarding. That way we can x-ray your therapy dog and your neck pillow.

Calvin says, “That would mean I’d get x-rayed again, and that slab of bacon I stole from the fridge would be discovered.” beagle

 

 

 

 

No Dreaming

I recently flew Boeing’s Dreamliner to Israel. The name sounds romantic, doesn’t it? It conjures up visions of comfort and luxury. Fourteen non-stop hours zooming through rainbows and clouds tinged with sunset.

Let me tell you, the Dreamliner is no dream. It must have been a name the design team dreamed up in a space capsule at Disney World.

It might fly like a dream for the pilots, but if you’re in economy class, look out, you’re in for a delusion.

The seats are made of plastic, they’re narrow and uncomfortable. When you pile in 242 passengers, it feels like a flying sardine can.  Image result for dreamliner 787

The wingspan is impressive. It’s almost 198 feet. It sports two enormous Rolls Royce engines. They’re noisy.

There are no shades on the windows. At the press of a button the window dims from light to dark. Magic glass. I wonder what it’s doing to my health.

The flight map is in twelve languages with Arabic getting more prime time than all the others.

My seat mates, both women, put on headsets and fell asleep almost immediately, holding me hostage by the window. The middle seat woman maneuvered herself into a fetal position with legs protruding into my limited space. I had to pour her back into her area.

The toilet lid hit my back as I sat down, flushing every two minutes with that scary sucking sound. I thought my insides would fall out.

The in-flight entertainment was lousy. No good TV shows. The movies were old. I couldn’t find the music stations. Probably weren’t any because people come plugged in these days.

There were four pilots taking shifts flying this metal cylinder at 558 miles an hour through space. The sun at this altitude was neon green and reflecting off the wing and streaming into the window making me look like Shrek. Or maybe it was the plastic tinted window that did that. It was so hot you could have cooked potato pancakes on it.

There were eight flight attendants. Three men and five women. Big people, older. No nonsense. They were probably undercover Mossad.

I gave one of them a bag of treats and thanked him for serving us and got a lukewarm response. He was probably suspicious of the contents.

I finally woke up the two sleeping beauties and walked to the back of the plane for a stretch and a bathroom break. In front of the galley a rabbi shrouded in prayer shawl regalia was praying like men do at the Western Wall. Then a group of young Israelis came looking for food and drinks. Two Jewish mamas came in next inspecting the trays of sandwiches in the same manner as in their own kitchens.

There was also a slew of pre-orders of kosher, vegetarian, you name it food trays. Flight attendants walked up and down the aisles with flashlights in search of the right passenger in the correct seat in a darkened plane.

I walked to another section where I met two women from Cincinnati who had been up for more than 24-hours. Their flight from Cincinnati to New Jersey to Tel Aviv was cancelled, so they were re-routed to Denver, then San Francisco to catch this flight. They were delirious.

An hour out, we were instructed to stay in our seats until we landed. This was Israeli law. All the men lined up to the bathroom.

Thirty minutes before landing, as I looked out the window, there were no outside lights on the plane. I wondered if that was Israeli law, too. That we must land in a shroud of darkness like a bat.

Calvin says, “Any dogs in the cabin? We could have been given a crew bed to chew our kosher chicken bones there.”  beagle

Wildlife in the City

Riding the subway sometimes feels like a wildlife journey. This morning as I waited for the train to arrive on the outdoor platform, I heard the quacking of ducks. The sun hadn’t risen yet. It was dark. I couldn’t see the birds, but I heard them  quacking to each other incessantly. They had a lot to say and were passionate about it. Finally they took a breath and that’s when the geese started in with their honking. They were loud and vociferous. The ducks couldn’t take it and flew over my head with jet-engine speed.  FullSizeRender (23)

Yesterday as I boarded the train to go home a woman told me not to sit down. “Why?” I asked. “There’s a rat in here!” she said horrified. I look behind me and sure enough the rodent was zig-sagging across the aisle. The passengers were screaming, men and women alike, jumping out of the way. The rat scampered as fast as his little legs could take him in and out of the rows of seats. Women were lifting their legs. The screams got louder. It ran past me and onto two seats by the door. It found a hole in the back of one of them and disappeared.

We stopped at another station. People got on. The seats were filling up. The only two empty ones had the rat in residence. “Don’t sit there!” a man said to people who wanted to sit down. “There’s a rat in the seat,” he said. The riders walked to another car.

At another stop a woman got on and sat down. The same man warned her, but this time in Spanish. He just knew she was Hispanic. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “No me da miedo.” She was right. There was nothing to be afraid of. The rat was in its hidey-hole with a palpitating heart hoping nobody would rip the seat out and extinguish it. The rodent had nothing to fear. There wasn’t a soul on board with the courage to do that. Even the men, some in hard hats and fluorescent vests, big burly construction guys with tool belts around their middles, might as well have been ballerinas in tutus for all the help they provided.

It showed me I better be my own warrior.

It also occurred to me that the easiest way to hold a group of people hostage would be to unleash a few rats on a subway system. The entire system would be paralyzed in no time. 

Calvin says, “You humans. What’s a stupid rat going to do to you? Now snakes, there’s a thought.”  beagle